Georgia Criminal Defense Blog

A Rundown of the Different Degrees of Cruelty to Children After Couple Allegedly Locks Children in Basement for a Year

Posted by Richard Lawson | Jul 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

Tamara McGowan and Thomas Young, a couple living in Stone Mountain, have been accused for locking their two children in their basement for around a year. They allegedly fed the children once a day. They also have been accused of exposing the children to drug use and sexual activity. 

According to police reports, the couple was arrested while sleeping in a car in a parking lot at Walmart in DeKalb County. They each have been charged with two counts of first degree cruelty to children and one count of second degree cruelty to children for depriving the children of necessary sustenance and causing them excessive physical and mental pain.

In today's post, I will explain the different degrees of child cruelty charges in Georgia, and as a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer, I will explain the differences in penalties for each degree.

Cruelty to Children in Georgia

All laws in Georgia are defined by the Georgia Code. The Georgia Code divides cruelty to children in Georgia into three different degrees as outlined below.

  • 1st Degree Cruelty to Children: When a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child under the age of 18 willfully deprives the child of necessary sustenance to the extent that the child's well-being is jeopardized or when a person maliciously causes a child under the age of 18 cruel or excessive physical or mental pain. O.C.G.A. §16-5-70(a-b). First-degree cruelty to children is classified as a felony in Georgia, and the penalty can include a prison sentence of five to twenty years.
  • 2nd Degree Cruelty to Children: When a person with criminal negligence causes a child less than 18 years old cruel or excessive physical or mental pain. O.C.G.A. §16-5-70(c). Second-degree cruelty to children is classified as a felony in Georgia, and the penalty can include a prison sentence of one to ten years.
  • 3rd Degree Cruelty to Children: When a person, who is the primary aggressor, intentionally allows a child under the age of 18 to witness the commission of a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery; or having knowledge that a child under the age of 18 is present and sees or hears the act, commits a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery. O.C.G.A. §16-5-70(d). Third-degree cruelty to children is classified as a misdemeanor in Georgia, and the penalty can include a jail sentence of up to 12 months and a fine of $1,000.

Practice Note

As a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney, I will always point out that the facts reported are just one side of the story. Everyone is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the case of a wrongful accusation of child cruelty, there are Georgia Criminal Defenses that can apply that will either lessen the charges to a lesser degree or result in a complete dismissal of the charge. These defenses include but are not limited to:

  • False Allegations: Much like the innocence defense - this may seem like trivial. However, false allegations occur frequently - usually because of strained familial relationships.
  • Accidental Injuries: Children get injured frequently as well, and it is not always a result of recklessness or gross negligence on the behalf of the parents. 
  • Parents' Right to Discipline: Georgia Courts also hold that parents have a right to discipline their children. The Court will determine if the discipline is rational, and this is decided on a case by case basis. 

If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense in Georgia, contact us today.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Richard Lawson has devoted his entire career to DUI Defense. He exclusively handles DUI Cases. As a former DUI Prosecutor he knows both sides of your case. Put his experience to work for you. You only have 30 days to protect your right to drive. Call now for immediate attention. We are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

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